What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

History or Hoax #16


Caroline Dew, Senior Editor

Even in elementary school, we are taught about Amelia Earhart. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean, an amazing feat for her time. She was also the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to US mainland. She is more famously known, however, for her disappearance somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. She was officially declared lost at sea, but her wreckage has never been found. Recently, a photo was released that showed a woman who closely resembled Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands, along with a man, who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan. I’ve included a labeled version of the photo.


To begin with analysis of the photo, it is marked as ‘Jaluit Atoll’, and is believed to have been taken in 1937. The woman is seated facing away from the camera on the edge of the dock, and the alleged Fred Noonan is facing the camera. The woman is wearing pants, something for which Earhart was known. The man has a very sharp receding hairline and a prominent nose, both things for which Noonan was known. According to NBC, The photograph shows a Japanese ship called the Koshu, along with something that appears to be 38 feet long. The length of the item can be told through proportion analyzation. 38 feet just happens to be the length of Amelia Earhart’s airplane.


Locals have, for decades, insisted that Amelia was captured and that they saw her in captivity. Locals of the area claim that she was captured and died in captivity after some time. This has been a legend in the area for decades.


While some people believe this photo to be of Earhart and Noonan, some people have attempted to debunk the photo and it’s credibility. Some of the claims against the photo being accurate, are the length of the woman’s hair. There are photos that exist of Earhart only days before, and the claim is that her hair is much shorter in these photos than it is on the Marshall islands. There are also claims that this photograph is actually from the year 1935, not 1937. If the photo is actually from 1935, then it can’t be Earhart. She disappeared in 1937.


Amelia Earhart took off from Oakland, California on June 1, 1937 to fly around the world. It was her second attempt to become the first pilot to circumnavigate the world. The pair reached Lae, 22,000 miles from where they started, only 7,000 more miles to go before ending up back in Oakland. The pair had several refueling stations throughout their flight across the world, and the next one on the agenda was the tiny Howland Island. The pair lost contact after they departed Lae, and never reached Howland Island.


Even before the photo was released, there were several hypotheses about what happened to Earhart and Noonan. The official position of the United States of America, is that her plane ran out of gas trying to find Howland Island, and crashed into the ocean. Another theory states that the pair instead landed on Gardner Island, which was uninhabited at the time. This theory is supported by some evidence, but nothing concrete. As to whether the photo is truly historical, or just a coincidental pair of lookalikes is being debated about. It’s possible that we’ll never truly know what happened to Amelia Earhart and her navigator.